by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
Just four days removed from his 40th birthday, Matt Lindland looks to rekindle a career that once saw him ranked as the top middleweight fighter in the world.
After becoming an All American wrestler at the University of Nebraska, Lindland began his mixed martial arts career in 1997. Wrestling still beckoned, so he took time out from the sport to focus on Olympic competition, earning a silver medal in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Lindland went on a tear upon his return to the sport, winning fights against Yoji Anjo, Ricardo Almeida, Phil Baroni, and Pat Miletich, before losing the first fight of his career. Lindland lost to Murilo Bustamante in a battle for the UFC middleweight championship.
He bounced back, still winning the majority of his fights, including wins over the likes of Travis Lutter, Joe Doerksen, Carlos Newton, and Jeremy Horn, but Lindland has dropped three of his last four bouts. One of those losses was well out of his weight class against No. 1 heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, but his last two bouts he faltered against Ronaldo “Jacare” de Souza and Vitor Belfort, two fighters streaking towards title shots.
He’ll try to right the ship on Friday night in the Strikeforce Challengers 8 main event on Showtime fighting Gracie jiu-jitsu protégé Kevin Casey. The bout takes place at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Ore., on Lindland’s home turf.
There’s no added pressure for him. Lindland told MMAWeekly.com that he likes fighting in front of the fans in Portland, despite the everyday distractions of being at home.
Most people think that Lindland is being set up for a win in his backyard, but he doesn’t take it that way. Losing three out of four, he knows that he can’t afford to take Casey for granted, despite not having known much about him prior to preparing for this fight.
“I was trying to find film on the guy and there he is rapping with Spencer Pratt dancing on the beach or something,” said Lindland, who did do the necessary recon on Casey.
“He’s a jiu-jitsu player, big strong guy. He wants to grab guys and throw them down on the ground and try to submit them or punch them. He’s a lousy striker.”
Lindland’s not really known for his striking proficiency either, but Casey’s jiu-jitsu threat doesn’t throw the Olympian off.
“You’ve got to prepare and get your game plan ready and you can only base you game plan on your strengths. It’s not like I’m gonna go out and develop a whole skill set and start striking like Anderson (Silva)… I’m gonna have to make it a dirty, ugly fight and probably put him on the ground and pound him away,” says the Team Quest elder.
“I start pounding away and they make a mistake and give me a choke or some sort of hold. I finish a lot of black belts with chokes and submission holds. I’m not really adverse to going to the ground with a jiu-jitsu guy, especially if I’m in the dominant position on top.”
And that’s the approach he’ll take into the fight with Casey. Lindland plans to push 27-year-old and see if he can hang. Remember 40 is the new 30.
“I’m gonna go out there and create a high pace and just be in his face and put a lot of pressure on him and make him fight me the whole time, every minute of every round, really test his will to fight.”